Venezuela ‘on the brink’


Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro reportedly spent more US $400,000 in less than a week while celebrating the 90th birthday of Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, PanAm Post reports:

According to National Assembly member Carlos Berrizbeitia, Maduro — who was in Cuba Monday, August 8 through Sunday, August 14 — lived lavishly while celebrating on the island. According to calculations done by Berrizbeitia, the Venezuelan government has spent US $124 million on visiting other countries so far this year.

Maduro is facing some internal pressure to step down, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Lisa Viscidi notes. Many of his fellow Chavistas blame him for failing to “carry on the revolution,” she writes for Foreign Affairs:

A more competent and decisive Chavista leader could move forward quickly with reforms to stabilize oil production that would not require any legislative changes. But in order to encourage a significant increase, a new leader would need to signal that he intended to improve conditions for private investment, and this is unlikely to happen unless an opposition-led government takes over.

Maduro’s approval rating fell to a nine-month low of 21.2 percent in July amid calls from government critics for a recall referendum next year, according to a local pollster Datanalisis, Reuters adds.

Venezuela’s electoral commission signaled last week that a referendum that could oust Maduro will not be held before the end of the year. That was hardly a surprise, but it puts Venezuela on a dangerous — and avoidable — collision course, The New York Times reports:

Under their Constitution, Venezuelans can elect a new president if a referendum is held this year. That would bring an overdue end to Mr. Maduro’s ruinous era. But if the vote happens next year, and Mr. Maduro loses, his vice president would serve out the remainder of his term, which would keep the country’s corrupt and authoritarian ruling class in power until at least 2019.

Opposition leaders denounced the time frame, announced by the chief of the electoral commission, Tibisay Lucena, as a delaying tactic meant to protect her political patrons. They called for a mass demonstration on Sept. 1 to insist that the referendum take place this year. María Corina Machado (left), a prominent critic of the government, said it was time to resort to “civil disobedience.”

“We need to call things by their name: We face a corrupt, mafioso, militant dictatorship,” she said in a speech. “The regime is cornered, and it is acting in an unrestrained manner. We have a historic opportunity.”

A decision by a court of appeals in Venezuela to uphold a 13-year jail sentence against opposition leader and prisoner of conscience Leopoldo López (right) is yet another stain on the country’s crumbling human rights record, Amnesty International said.

Addressing the Center for International Private Enterprise [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy], Gigi Raffo, Fellow at Atlas Corps and social media manager at Venezuelan think tank, CEDICE, provides interesting and useful insight into engaging youth, particularly in repressive societies where the space for civil society is limited.

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